Do You Really Need Travel Insurance?
I was alone in New York, sitting in the waiting room of an urgent care clinic, freaking out at my friend via text. I’d innocently tripped while going up a set of stairs at a subway station and somehow sliced my toe open and needed stitches.
But I was thankful. Thankful for what? Thankful I bought travel insurance before I left. Something simple like a few stitches can cost hundreds of dollars. So instead of worrying about how much it was going to cost or forgo treatment altogether and potentially risk getting an infection, I was able to get it treated promptly and properly.
My clumsy accident proves you don’t need to be doing extreme activities or travelling to far flung places. Expensive things can happen any time, anywhere.
I know, buying travel insurance isn’t as much fun as a new backpack or a new travel outfit but it’s more important than either of those. You may decide to roll the dice but all it can take is a slip on some steps and you could find yourself thousands and thousands in debt.
Common Excuses Don’t Cut It
You might think, “I’m healthy, I don’t need travel insurance.” True, you may be healthy right at this moment but you can’t predict the future and things can crop up unexpectedly. How do you know your appendix won’t kick up a fuss while in a foreign country? Or that you won’t have an accident, even if you’re a careful traveller.
Also, travel insurance often covers more than medical emergencies. What if your camera is stolen? What if the budget airline you’re flying goes bankrupt while you’re abroad and leaves you stranded? What if there’s a political or environmental emergency in the country you’re visiting and it disrupts your plans? Good travel insurance will have you covered.
Maybe now you’re saying, “Ok, but if I get sick I’ll just fly home.” What about emergency situations? Even for something more minor, you may not be allowed to fly if you’re sick or injured. You may not be able to sit up in an airplane seat or may be denied boarding if you’re not in good condition. Also, the cost of changing your flights will probably be more than the cost of travel insurance.
“Fine. But the country I’m visiting has cheap health care.” I don’t doubt you. But what if a situation comes up where the healthcare available in that country isn’t up to it and you need to be airlifted home? Without insurance, an air ambulance would be financially out of the question for all but the 1%.
“Alright, I understand the risk but I can’t afford insurance.” Maybe I sound harsh but… if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford travel. I understand that a lot of people travel on tight budgets and want to pack the most fun and adventure into that budget. I get it. But travel insurance should be as necessary as airfare when planning an international trip. There are lots of options out there at various levels of coverage. A basic plan that covered my three week trip to Nicaragua only cost $56, a drop in the bucket if I’d run into emergency medical expenses. If you truly can’t afford travel insurance before your trip, I’d urge you to postpone the trip until you can spend the extra money on a plan. Killjoy, I know.
What to Look For in a Travel Insurance Plan
There are a myriad of options out there when deciding on a travel insurance. Make sure that you’re covered for the places you’re visiting and for the entire length of your trip. Know how much you may be required to pay upfront and the limits on your expense coverage. Does it include provisions for your baggage and electronics? Is there a 24/7 emergency line you can call from any country? What’s the process for making a claim?
You need to also pay attention to what’s not covered. For instance, I wasn’t covered if anything had happened to me while volcano boarding in Nicaragua since my insurance company considered that to be an extreme activity. Skydiving, paragliding, and bungee jumping generally aren’t covered unless you pay extra.
You may never need your travel insurance and most trips will go off without a hitch but you don’t want to become that one warning story that all your friends use to illustrate what not to do.
Be smart. Be covered.
Planning a trip now? You can use the widget below to explore some travel insurance plans from SafetyWing.